Landing A Treasure From The 1850's William Wilson DLC Highlights Battle To Save The Tualatin Plains

If you knew you were watching something important be destroyed forever you would try to stop that, wouldn't you?  What if that something was so rich in history, and so important to the world, that loosing it could signal the end of all you knew?  Would you care then?

I hope so.  Because today as I drove off from the farm of Larry Duyck out on NW Roy Road I realized, more than I ever have, what the cost of rampant development here in the Tualatin Plains can cost us all.  The Duyck Farm was started in 1907 and remains today in the capable hands of the 3rd (Larry Duyck) and the 4th generation (Jacque Duyck Jones; daughter).  The farm is stunningly beautiful with the classic farmhouse and barns setting the scene for acres of kotata blackberries, blueberries, and other rotation crops which are bursting from the ground this Spring.  Irrigation systems are in place and there is a palpable blend of modern machinery and timeless farming know how.  I hope it will be another productive year on the farm for this family whose name is synonymous with Washington County and productive sustainable farming.

15,000 years ago, as the Ice Age was ending, giant Lake Missoula in Western Montana broke through a massive ice damn and sent torrents of water, rock, silt, gravel, and anything and everything in its path towards the Columbia Basin.  Imagine water 1,000 times the volume of the Columbia River coursing through our Region and making valleys and lakes and gaps wherever it chose to do so.  This went on for hundreds of years and these floods created the land we know today.  Through the Willamette River, Lake Oswego, and Tualatin River gaps, coarsed billions of tons of fine silt from Eastern Washington and beyond.  It filled the Tualatin Valley and Tualatin Plains and settled here as the waters receded against the Tualatin, Coastal, and Chehalem Mountain Ranges.  What was left was arguably the greatest farmland in the world.  Here we are, us locals, in the middle of the most productive land on Earth and yet most of us do not even know it.  The Duyck's know it and have fought to protect the very asset that supports them and their neighbors.

Surrounded by hills and mountains (red) the Tualatin Valley was one of the few places where the Missoula Floods deposited so much rich soil and silt making for incredible farmland.

Surrounded by hills and mountains (red) the Tualatin Valley was one of the few places where the Missoula Floods deposited so much rich soil and silt making for incredible farmland.

History Took Me Out...   What led me out to the Western end of the Tualatin Plains today was my interest in History; the history of our valley and our people.  Granted most of you reading this are new to the Valley.  But pay attention because you are going to play a bigger role in what happens to people like the Duyck family than those of us who have been here for decades and that is because you outnumber us 3 to 1.  In fact, 2 out of 3 people now in Washington County have not been here longer than 20 or 30 years. 

Today I came looking to preserve some of the historical past of William and Polly (Mills) Wilson who settled the 642.50-acre land claim that the Duyck's farm is located upon.  The Wilson's came over in 1843 with their children John,  Caroline, and Rachel.  Reverend Marcus Whitman acted as their guide and brought them much of the way along with  3 other pioneer families (Constable's, Arthurs, & Mills).  Their arrival was 4 years prior to the opening of the Oregon Trail and they could count on 1 hand the neighbors they could see on the clearest of days from their farm. 

In 1847 the Oregon Trail officially opened and thousands came pouring into the Oregon Territory chasing the promise of free fertile farmland.  In that same year Marcus Whitman and his wife Narcissa and family, along with many others, were massacred in Walla Walla by the Cayuse Indians who were reacting to the death and destruction put upon them by the White man's diseases and influences.

Seen here in the 1851 Survey map is the William Wilson Claim of 642.50 Acres and the surveyor clearly is showing the location of their home and barn.  Some of their neighbors names are well known today.

Seen here in the 1851 Survey map is the William Wilson Claim of 642.50 Acres and the surveyor clearly is showing the location of their home and barn.  Some of their neighbors names are well known today.

The Duyck's recently took down a barn - a very very old barn.  It had to go but when it did they made sure to have as much of the wood as possible reused and repurposed.  Out there on the farm was a large pile of huge log floor beams and it occurred to me that reusing wood from our valley as old as this wood is was the right thing to do.  The Wilson's may have cut this wood, built the barn, and sat under the shade of these trees.  God knows the Duyck's used this barn for 4 generations and the fact that there was something that old of that much use to these families meant that the historian in me wanted in.  


The Bigger Story-  

Today I moved the massive beams.  They are truly wonderful and we will be making some log benches out of them over the Summer.  Larry Duyck helped me move them and we had a nice chat.  A small part of that 170 plus years of History from the Wilson-Duyck farm left with me today and we will cherish it and tell its story for decades to come.

As I left Roy Road today with my bounty I realized how unchanged that area is.  The reason for that is partly geography - growth and our "wonderful" Urban Growth have not come knocking yet.  But just as big of a reason is that Larry and his family, as well as some others, have fought for decades to have this legacy protected.  

Heading North from my home in Orenco is the East end of the Tualatin Plains.  It was 45 years ago when my buddies and I roamed the vacant farms and creek bottoms of this area, free from disturbances, hunting squirrels and chasing girls.  People never thought it would change.  But it did.  Today we cannot move here at rush hour.  The farms are all gone.  So are the original people.  And history?  With the exception of yours truly and a few others, there is no sense of history here. 

The Intel Ronler Acres Fab has now covered over 100 acres of Prime Farm land on the East end of the Tualatin Plains taking out native american and local history as it went in.

The Intel Ronler Acres Fab has now covered over 100 acres of Prime Farm land on the East end of the Tualatin Plains taking out native american and local history as it went in.

As I drove past INTEL RONLER ACRES heading to the Duyck's Farm melancholy overtook me.  If your local you understand this feeling when you travel around this area.  Another mile West along my route is the Shute Road Industrial Park and the Majestic Business Park; now home to Amazon.  This area was bucolic farm land not even a decade ago.  It was all a part of the Tualatin Plains that the Missoula Floods had created.  But we needed it for the "High Paying Jobs" that were coming to the Valley.

Looking West towards the Duyck Farm we see the rapid expansion of the Industrial parks and Gas and Chemical storage faciliies.

Looking West towards the Duyck Farm we see the rapid expansion of the Industrial parks and Gas and Chemical storage faciliies.

Even further West I rolled past the Historic Shute Farm, which has just been added to the National Historic Registry thanks to the hard work of the Haag Family who have been there since the 1960's.  Change is coming all around them too as it rolls West towards the Wilson-Duyck Farm.  Across the street from the Shute House in an ancient field, the bodies of 5 children of Colonel Joe and Virginia Meek are buried.   Colonel Meek and his Nez Perce Wife, Virginia, settled in the Tualatin Plains just 3 years before the Wilson's did (1840).  They likely knew each other and all of them made this valley the great place that it is.  

In the coming months, you will all hear about the Meek children.  It seems that the Majestic Development group has decided to excavate the site where the City believes the Meek children and the adjacent Methodist Meeting House historic site are located to make way for a new 800,000 SF Warehouse and parking lot with drainage pond.  This statement is based upon the plans that they have turned in to the City of Hillsboro as shown below.

This proposal to Develop 45 plus acres in the Tualatin Plains was submitted to the City of Hillsboro recently by a consultant for Majestic showing a massive drainage pond being excavated where the Methodist Meeting House and the bodies of the Meek Children have been documented to have been buried.

This proposal to Develop 45 plus acres in the Tualatin Plains was submitted to the City of Hillsboro recently by a consultant for Majestic showing a massive drainage pond being excavated where the Methodist Meeting House and the bodies of the Meek Children have been documented to have been buried.

This aerial photo shows the location that the City of HIllsboro in 2004 said they believed was the probable location of the Methodist Meeting House and burial griounds.  The Shute home is located just to the west.

This aerial photo shows the location that the City of HIllsboro in 2004 said they believed was the probable location of the Methodist Meeting House and burial griounds.  The Shute home is located just to the west.

In Case the Point is Muddled or Subtle -

As I continued West the facts are self-evident.  Traffic and development are going on all the way West to the City of North Plains (OR) which just so happens to be the 1/2 way point from my home on the East end of the Tualatin Plains, to the West end where I was going to get the logs.

We are losing our valley.  We are losing our farms.  We are losing our countryside and perspective as to who we are and how we fit in.

Larry Duyck and his daughter know how they fit in.  And they know if they do not work hard to protect their farm, growth can and will come.  Others scoff and say that sort of thinking is ridiculous.  But the proof is everywhere.  It is coming from the East and it is heading to West.

The Tualatin Plains are being crowded out and built over quickly these days in North Hillsboro and growth is quickly coming to the West end.  The richness of the land is obvious to anyone driving through it or who see the pacthwork fo large farms from above.

The Tualatin Plains are being crowded out and built over quickly these days in North Hillsboro and growth is quickly coming to the West end.  The richness of the land is obvious to anyone driving through it or who see the pacthwork fo large farms from above.

 

The reasons that our farmland is being plowed under were promoted primarilty as a way to provide much needed Industrial land for "High Paying" jobs.  INTEL did create those jobs but they are taking our Water at a rate that threatens our own supplies.  And that was over a decade ago.  Since that time we have had Data Centers erected which employ virtually no one while using massive amounts of power.  We also have Top Golf and those low paying jobs.  And of course there is Amazon who recently moved into the Majestic business Park and those jobs are low paying as well.

Outsiders, foreign investors, non-Oregonians, and others are coming to our Valley, developing the land, and taking all the cream off the top as they head to their next conquest.  They higher slick consultants who spin a good line of BS and talk in codes and get tax giveaways in a smugness that rivals anyone.  But the facts are right in front of us.  We are losing the Valley and now the line has been drawn between Jackson Road and Banks.  The lands West of Jackson Road are currently zoned Rural Reserve and they are supposed to be preserved for future generations of farmers.  East of Jackson Road is now being prepared for more buildings.  I do not believe that this line will hold and attempts have already been made to break the agreements that put it in place in order to keep the machine marching West.

The X shows he Duyck farm on the west end of the tualatin plains and the brown line seperates the build up occuring at a record pace.  In between these lines and the Sunset highway 26 the final battle to preserve farmland and the historic sites in the plains is being waged.

The X shows he Duyck farm on the west end of the tualatin plains and the brown line seperates the build up occuring at a record pace.  In between these lines and the Sunset highway 26 the final battle to preserve farmland and the historic sites in the plains is being waged.

 

I am all for jobs- all for smart growth.  But this insane plowing and grinding and gnashing of machines and explosion of cement to put in more computers and pipe and roads is wrong,

Let me suggest that the attempted excavation of the great Meek family childrens graves is the single biggest insult and act of aggression that anyone could attempt to perpetrate on the people of the Tualatin Plains.  This event may be the flashpoint in a big pushback in policy and public thinking that is going on right now. Growth must slow while we all re-evaluate what we are really doing.

What is the Right way ahead? Lest you all assume I hate growth or want everything rolled back to the 1900's let me say for the record we need growth.  But the type of wholesale boundary and community destroying growth we are seeing in parts of the Tualatin Valley is wrong and we all know it.  We need to slow down. 

For every job we are creating thereby attracting new comers let's make sure those new comers have a proper place to live so we balance housing and jobs.  We have failed to do that miserably.  Let's make sure our local people and their children are not forced out by housing costs that have now grown so high that most locals could never remain here.  Let us honor our History and our Farmers and our homebuilders and business owners too.  One is not better then the other but I am a value-added person. If what you are doing is not adding value to our current citizens then it should not be done.  Lastly land owners around Oregon and here in the Tualatin Plains have been told "You Can Not Live There" by our current zoning systems.  The thought of a large or small farmer who has had land here for any number of years being told that they are not allowed even 1 home on their land is wrong.  It is part of the reason we have landowners who have given up and who do want to see their land rezoned so they can benefit from it.  I would urge those on the restrictive side of this battle to see that allowing people to live on their land is what will protect it the most.  If we do not let more people love the land and the country life how are we going to expect them to support that it be preserved?  So, I would encourage and support land owners being able to build on their land; at least one home and maybe more then one based on some reasonable formula (one per 40 acres for instance).  In this way we can add a wall or at least more fortresses between the developments spreading West and North from Hillsboro.  In this way the economics of the country life can stop the economics of the asphalt jungle.  In this way we can maintain or find a balance once again.


I have the wood posts.  The drive out today confirmed to me that I know too much and care too much.  Maybe me getting that wood is really me trying to hang on to something that is going away before it is gone.  But leaving today, as Larry and I spoke, I was encouraged that maybe, just maybe, the tides may turn in favor of farmland, of people, and of history.

I can feel the Wilsons, and Meeks, and many more cheering us on.  We need all of you to ask questions and to care.  To get involved.  Newcomers this is your world too now.  Your valley!  The promise of the Missoula Floods and the leagcy of the natives and pioneers is still here for you to enjoy and celebrate.  Take a stand and begin to rise. 

Together we can find a balance for our futures.  We can honor our rich past while facing a brighter tomorrow.  But growth for the sake of growth is a fools game.  Anyone who has lived this reality, like those from LA or the Bay Area, know that the stakes are very high.

While I plan my next move, I am off to make something wonderful of these beauties!

Joe and Virginia Meek And Families Lead The Oregon Territory Settlement

Post by Ginny Mapes- March 2018

Mountain men, missionaries, and sailors from ships at sea, their lives all connect. . . . here's part of the story starting in 1840.

Joesph L. Meek, Robert Newell, Caleb Wilkins, George Ebbert, William Craig, and William Doty were friends, having trapped together over the years. They were well-known fur traders, trailblazers, and explorers. They had all indigenous women for wives. The men trapped while the women tended camp, cooked, cared for the children, and helped with the pelts.

In the summer of 1840, when they met at the Summer Rendezvous in Green River, Wyoming, Joe Meek and his trapper friends were planning on leaving the fur trade business behind and becoming farmers in Oregon Country. Three independent missionary couples hired the trappers to pilot them on their way west. Harvey Clarke, Philo Littlejohn, Alvin T. Smith, were headed west with their wives to the Whitman Mission. They needed the trappers to lead the way.

Joe Meek and Robert Newell wondered if it was possible to open a wagon road from the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River? They decided to try. From Fort Hall, they packed up the wagons filled with their worldly goods, topped with their wives and children, and started for Walla Walla. It was late, the 27th of September, 1840. With their young families en-tow, pioneers Meek, Newell, and the others, including the missionaries, headed west.

The journey was difficult extending over vast lava beds, round impassable canyons, and over rapid unbridged rivers. This was the most difficult part of the journey.

“In a few days we began to realize the difficult task before us, and found that the continual crashing of the sage under our wagons which in many places was higher the mules backs was no joke and seeing our animals began to fail we began to lighten up finally threw away our Wagon beds and were quite sorry we had undertaken the job. . .” Robert Newell

The going was very rough with weather cold and disagreeable, but they finally made it. Joe Meek and Robert Newell were some of the first families to pave the way for the original Oregon Trail route to the Willamette Valley along the Columbia. At Waiilatpu, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman gave them a warm welcome. Meek and Newell decided to press on. They arrived at old Fort Nez Perce [Walla Walla] in November 1840. Chief Trader, Pierre Pambrun noted “Newell and Meek visited the Fort on the way west. They left their wagons and took to the river.” They transferred their goods to pack horses. Source: Sixty Years on the Frontier of the Pacific Northwest by Pambrun.

Finally arriving weary, dirty, and hungry, in December 1840, they camped overlooking “The Falls” (Hyas Tyee Tumchuck, Indian name)now Willamette Falls. Here they were joined by Doty, Ebbert, and Wilkins. "They resolved to push out into the Plains to the west of them, and see what could be done in the matter of selecting homes."

“Accordingly camp was raised, and the party proceeded to the Plains, where they arrived on Christmas and went into camp again. The hardships of mountain life were light compared to the hardships of this winter. For in the mountains, when the individual's resources were exhausted, there was always the Company to go to, which was practically inexhaustible. Should it be necessary, the Company was always willing to become the creditor of a good mountain-man. And the debtor gave himself no uneasiness because he knew that if he lived he could discharge his indebtedness. But everything was different now. There was no way of paying debts, even if there had been a company willing to give them credit, which there was not, at least among Americans. Hard times they had seen in the mountains; harder times they were likely to see in the valley; indeed were already experiencing.” River of the West by Frances Fuller Victor

[ From Virginia Meek 1820-1900] On Courtney’s Birthday, December 25th, they camped on a creek near where Glencoe was founded, about one-half mile northeast of North Plains. “Oh, but it was cold and lonesome. Mr. Meek hurried and built a bark house and had a nice fire and made it nice and warm, but I couldn’t help it, I was lonesome for my people.”

 

Joe Meke Plaque at teh Old Scotch Church

 

 

The Tualatin Plains History Revealed

Part of what we are doing with the Tualatin Valley Tales website is teaching people about our amazing Valley and the State we now live in.  To understand a place you had better understand the history.  Below you will find an in-depth read on that history written by a noted Archaeologist for the Port of Portland as they were filing permits for the runway expansion of the Hillsboro Airport in 2008.  One can learn so much by reading this report.  Please enjoy.


Direct contact between Oregon Native Americans and Euro-Americans began in 1792, when American Robert Gray located the mouth of the Columbia River and British Royal Navy parties under the command of George Vancouver sailed up the river into the Portland Basin (Dodds, 1986). Most interactions were limited to coastal fur trading ships until the Lewis and Clark expedition passed through the Portland Basin in 1805 and 1806. Fur trappers and adventurers soon began entering the region. Astoria was founded in 1811 by American fur entrepreneur John Jacob Astor, and the British North West Company (NWC) sent overland trapping expeditions from Canada. Several parties explored and worked the northern Willamette Valley, including Donald McKenzie, who traveled the length of the valley in 1812. NWC trading posts were first established in 1812-1813, probably near Salem, and then near Champoeg on the bank of the Willamette River in 1813 (Hussey, 1967; Minor et al., 1980). The valley soon became a primary source of meat and other foods for Astoria (which was sold to NWC and renamed Fort George). Furs and meat from the valley continued to be important after Fort Vancouver was established by the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC, successor to NWC) in 1825.

Meek-Zuercher Farm.JPG

In 1834, the John Work HBC party traveled over the Tualatin Plains, through the Wapato Lake region, and down the Chehalem Creek drainage to the Champoeg area on the Willamette River (Work, 1923). As noted above, he was struck by the rich soils and fine pasture lands in the grassy “Faladin” plains, as well as the large size of the conifers in the neighboring wooded regions. In addition to beaver trapping, the Tualatin Plains were also being used for horse pasturing, as Work noted that 170 horses had been grazing on the plains for the preceding two months (Work, 1923). By this time, men leaving HBC employment were settling and farming in the Champoeg area. American missionaries, exploring parties, and other visitors began returning to the United States in the 1830s with stories of the moderate climate, rich soils, and economic opportunities of the Willamette Valley.

By the early 1840s American emigrants were arriving via the Oregon Trail. In 1844, frontiersman Charles Clyman noted that about 200 “mostly American” families were already settled on the “Twallata” Plains (Camp, 1960). Joel Palmer, future Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Oregon (1853-1857), visited Oregon in 1845 and described the “Quality” Plains in terms similar to Work, also noting that “these plains are all claimed, settled, and mostly improved” (Palmer, 1906).

Joseph Meek, a famous American fur trapper “mountain man” and several other retiring mountain men had settled on the eastern Tualatin Plains in late 1840, followed in 1841 and 1842 by emigrant families fresh from the Oregon Trail (Ellis and Chapman, 2000). Meek’s land claim was just north of the Hillsboro Airport. As emigrants continued to arrive, two settlement clusters arose on the plains; first referred to as East Tualatin Plains and West Tualatin Plains, these evolving communities became known respectively as Columbia (or Columbus) and Forest Grove. By the late 1840s, Columbia had been renamed Hillsborough, in honor of local pioneer David Hill, who had served in the provisional legislature and sold part of his claim to be used for the developing town (McArthur, 1974). The United States acquired control of the Oregon and Washington region through a treaty with Great Britain in 1846 and the U.S. Oregon Territory was created in 1848 (Dodds, 1986). The many American emigrants to Oregon, however, had already established a Provisional Government along American lines in 1843, with a constitution, property rights, and other laws. Meek, Hill, and many others participated in creating and serving in this government. In 1850, the U.S. Congress enacted the Donation Land Act, providing free land to Oregon emigrants. Settlers already present were able to register their lands. Donation Land Claim (DLC) farms covered the Tualatin Plains.

Columbia River and Willamette Valley Native American groups, including the Tualatin Kalapuya, had been devastated by successive waves of European-introduced epidemic diseases. A large epidemic in the early 1830s, thought to be malaria, resulted in mortality rates as high as 90 percent (Boyd, 1990). Few families or larger groups remained intact as the influx of Euro-American emigrants increased steadily through the 1840s. Raiding and sporadic organized warfare flared throughout Oregon in the 1840s and 1850s, spurring the United States government to secure treaties after acquiring control of the Oregon territory. Treaties with many Willamette Valley groups were negotiated in 1851 and most of these provided for reservations in the Willamette Valley, including one surrounding Wapato Lake for the Tualatin (Beckham, 1977; Gibbs and Starling, 1978). These treaties, however, were not ratified by the U.S. Senate, in part due to pressure from settlers demanding that Indians be removed from the valley. In 1855, Joel Palmer, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, negotiated a new treaty with the Kalapuya bands, signed in 1855 as the Dayton Treaty and ratified by the Senate. These bands ceded their lands to the United States for specified annuities and agreed to be removed to the Grand Ronde Reservation in the foothills west of the Willamette Valley.

The community of Hillsborough (soon shortened to Hillsboro’ [McArthur, 1974]) developed as a market town hub for the surrounding farms. It became the county seat of Washington County in 1850. The Tualatin Plains and Hillsboro were connected with Portland by the Oregon Central Railroad in 1870. The line initially ran south of the community due to a dispute between the city and the railroad, but Hillsboro slowly grew to the railroad. The city was further tied to the growing Portland metropolitan area with the spread of interurban railroad lines in the early twentieth century. The Oregon Electric Railroad connected Hillsboro and Forest Grove to Portland in 1908 and Southern Pacific (on the Oregon Central line) converted to electricity and began interurban service in 1914. These lines were soon superseded by motor vehicle improvements, but these improving modes of transportation opened the rural Tualatin Plains to suburban development, a trend that still continues. The population of Hillsboro increased steadily through the twentieth century.

After World War II, Hillsboro sought to attract companies and jobs to the city, rather than remain a suburban bedroom community. This effort has proved successful over the last 60 years, with a variety of industrial, electronics, computer, and other high technology firms developing plants in Hillsboro. The population of the city nearly doubled between 1960 and 1970, doubled again between 1970 and 1980, and doubled yet again between 1990 and 2000 (Oregon Blue Book, 2008). Hillsboro is currently the fifth largest city in the state. Hillsboro Airport began as a private airport in 1925 (Coffman Associates et al., 2005). Dr. Elmer Smith purchased 100 acres in north Hillsboro and constructed two crossing turf runways with the assistance of the Hillsboro American Legion. The City of Hillsboro leased and then, in 1935, purchased the airport. Two larger crossing runways were constructed as WPA projects between 1933 and 1938, one 2,800 feet long (oriented northwest-southeast) and one 3,000 feet long (northeast-southwest). The federal government invested over $600,000 in additional land and other improvements to the airport during World War II, using it as a satellite airfield for the Portland Air Base (now part of Portland International Airport). The airport remained in city control from 1945 to 1966, when the Port of Portland assumed ownership. Runway 12/30, the northwest-southeast runway, was enlarged in 1976 and 1977 to a length of 6,600 feet. Runway 2/20 is currently 4,049 feet long. Although the airport does not have scheduled commercial air service, it is heavily used for general aviation and by regional companies for business aviation. It is currently the second busiest airport in Oregon behind Portland International Airport (Port of Portland, 2008).